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Investigation launched into cause of fire at Cork docklands site; owners to carry out security review

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A spokesperson for Cork City Fire Brigade has described a fire at a commercial unit in Cork’s docklands as “suspicious”.

Six units of the fire service attended the blaze at the former R&H Hall offices on Kennedy Quay, arriving shortly after 2am.

According to a spokesperson for the fire service, when they arrived at the scene, the fire was already “well developed”.

When firefighters arrived on the scene, the two-storey derelict building was well alight, and it took several hours to extinguish the blaze, with three fire trucks, a control unit, a platform, and a tanker in attendance at the scene.

“The building was fairly consumed by the fire, but the external envelope of it, the walls, are still intact, but the roof and floors have caved in,” a spokesperson for Cork Fire Brigade told The Echo.

“Some of the buildings down there are now vacant, and that can give rise to anti-social behavior going on in there, and in this case it was suspicious.” The spokesperson said the fire had been well established by the time Cork City Fire Brigade had arrived on the scene, and firefighters could offer no certainty as to the cause of the blaze.

Gardai are currently conducting an investigation into the cause of the fire.

While the fire service was fighting the blaze on Kennedy Quay, the alarm was raised after a woman went into the river at Bachelor’s Quay.

A garda entered the water and is understood to have rescued the woman, while fire service personnel rendered assistance. The woman was taken to the Mercy University Hospital for evaluation.

Emergency services were alerted to a fire at the former R&H Hall office building at 2.17am this morning. Pic: Cork City Fire Brigade

Wednesday morning’s fire is the second such incident at the former R&H Hall site this month, with a blaze breaking out at a silo building on Thursday 10 November.

The former R&H Hall buildings are owned by developers O’Callaghan Properties (OCP).

Responding to questions about Wednesday’s fire, a spokesperson for OCP said the matter is currently the subject of a garda investigation.

“The building in question is secured by perimeter fencing, iron bars on the windows and metal cladding on the doors. A security company retained by our company patrols the area on a regular basis and the site is monitored by our own staff as well.

“We will discuss further enhancement of the existing security arrangements with the gardaí and the fire service,” the spokesperson said.

The building at the center of the latest fire is adjacent to, but not part of, the site of OCP’s proposed €350m South Docks development on a 4.1 acre site on Kennedy Quay, the spokesperson said.

The first phase of the South Docks development, which was granted planning permission in August but is currently under appeal, would include a 122,000sq ft 130-bed rehabilitation hospital, to be owned by French health and nursing home operators Orpea; 450,000sq ft of offices; and two apartment blocks of about 80 units each, one for the rental sector, the other for owner-occupiers.

Former Lord of Cork, Fine Gael councilor Des Cahill, said he was calling on O’Callaghan Properties to carry out a full audit of security arrangements on the site.

“It clearly is a worry that this fire has happened so soon after the recent incident, and it is all the more reason that works begin as soon as possible on the site,” Cllr Cahill said, adding his thanks to the fire service.

Socialist Party TD for Cork North Central Mick Barry tweeted that while fire services were attending the fire on Kennedy Quay, trucks had to be diverted in from the county to attend emergencies in the city, leaving parts of the county without cover.

A spokesperson for the Garda Press Office said: “Gardaí and emergency services attended a fire at a disused building on grounds at Kennedy Quay in Cork in the early hours of this morning, Wednesday 3rd November 2022.

“Local fire services have extinguished the blaze. A technical examination of the scene will be conducted once the site has been secured. No injuries have been reported. No further information is available.

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